Want a Rolls Royce but only have a Mini budget? Here’s our top 10 ways into a key-fob you can proudly display on the bar (though we can’t promise the cars they belong will be quite so show-worthy).
1. Lotus Excel (from £4000)
The mid-engined Elise and Esprit get all the love when conversations turn to Lotus, but what about the Eclat and its later incarnation, the Excel?
Yes, a baboon’s got a prettier backside, but these things handle well thanks to a 50:50 weight distribution and though they’re hardly Esprit Turbo-quick, a sub-7sec 0-60mph capability means they’re reasonably brisk - unless you’ve got the torpid auto (zzz).
2. Jaguar XK8 from (from £3500)
Generation Z Jags have the residual strength of wet tissue paper, and one look at the awful retro styling and cheap interiors tells you why. That’s a shame because they all drive well. Yes, even the X-type.
You could buy an X or S-type for £300, but to maintain some kind of self-respect, scrape together £3500 for an XK8. It has the same kind of useless exterior size:interior-space ratio as the Führerbunker after the allies filled it with rubble and doesn't have the poke of the pricier supercharged XKR, but it’s still a grand way to tour.
3. Rolls Royce Silver Spirit (from £4500)
Want a flying lady on the top of your radiator grille and don’t mind everyone presuming you’re a bargain bucket wedding chauffeur spiriting some bride away for her nuptials, hopefully followed by a night of ecstasy (depending on how shady the guests are)?
If you answered yes to the above the 1980s Rolls Royce Silver Spirit has your name all over it. Looks like five-year old’s drawing of an Olympic podium and will obviously look ridiculous outside your suburban semi, but at £4500 as opposed to £350k for a new Phantom, at least it costs less than the house.
4. AMG E55 (from £3500)
Talking genuine banger-money AMGs (rather than merely DIY AMG-badged bangers) generally means talking about two cars: the awful first-gen ML55, or the far cooler E55.
Neither of these has the ass-kicker supercharged ‘55’ V8, but with 354hp they’re still reasonably rapid, the E getting to 62mph in under 6sec. And that was when they were new. Twenty years on with the rusty bodywork holed like a wheel of Emmental shaving kilos off the kerb weight, they’re probably even faster.
5. Lexus IS200 (from £500)
Alan Partridge did his best to ruin the cred of these Lexi, but that still doesn’t explain why the original IS is so unfairly forgotten today.
With its tight gearshift, decent chassis and its cool chronograph-inspired dials, the IS had plenty going for it. Except go, that is: the original 153hp 2.0 was too slow so you might need to up the budget to a heady £800 to find a rarer IS300.
6. Porsche 924 (from £1000)
The world’s messed-up obsession with anything old and Porsche-badged, no matter how rubbish, means a tidy example of the dog-slow 2.0-litre 924 is actually worth more than a sound Boxster, which is infinitely better to drive.
But a tatty 924 is still probably the cheapest way into a Porsche, and they’re not all bad. They’re cheap to run, practical, handle well, and finally have attained enough of a kitsch cool appeal that you don’t need to make excuses when you ‘fess up exactly which Porsche that key fob belongs to.
7. Range Rover (from £1000)
Ah, the P38 Range Rover. Not cool like a really old or really new Rangie, it's the one people remember for looking like the 1980s London black cab. And for breaking down. Lots.
Engine-wise you’ve got the choice between a couple of V8s so thirsty you’ll have your own personal parking space on the petrol station forecourt, or a diesel that’s so slow the garage will have shut hours before you get there.
8. Maserati Biturbo (from £4000)
The idea of a shoestring Rangie not enough to have you waking up in cold sweats? Then let's talk about used-supermini-price Maseratis.
Boomerang-light 3200s and the odd V8 coupe can be had for less than £10k, but if you really want to go cheap, you need to delve into the boxy Biturbo world. This pic's of a coupe, but often the four-door cars are cheapest because nobody wants them.
If you’re reading this in the US your options expand to include the Chrysler TC by Maserati, a Dodge Daytona-offshoot with a 2.2 litre four-pot. But even a financially ruinous Biturbo’d be better than one of those.
9. Aston DB7 (from £20,000)
Okay, so £20k is not tiny cash (and it’s less tiny than it was; these things used to be £14k), but it’s not much for a badge with as much prestige as this. And thank yourself lucky we're not suggesting the IQ-based Cygnet.
There's not a huge gulf in price between the 340hp 6cyl and 426hp V12 these days, so might as well go for the bigg’n. Just try not to lose your cool when someone asks if that’s the one with two Mondeo engines welded together.
10. Alpina D3 (from £5000
BMWs used to be aspirational, but now they’re ten a penny, and even M cars are relatively common, how do you stay ahead of the Joneses? With an Alpina, of course.
Maybe one like the D3 saloon, a 200hp diesel 3-series that blends 330d performance and 320d economy by slotting the 123d’s motor under the bonnet.
That cowcatcher and those iconic 19in rims lift it above the usual 320d M Sport cars, and they don’t just look good: they’re wrapped in proper rubber instead of BMW’s favoured runflats so the whole thing rides and handles better too.
Tags: #new-era #modern-classics #bangers #bargains #bargain #range-rover #lotus #excel #elan #alpina #bmw #aston-martin #db7 #vantage #maserati #bi-turbo #ghibli #3200GT #924 #boxster #porsche #amg #e55amg #ml55amg #e55 #ml55 #lexus #is #lexus-is #is200 #is300 #jaguar #s-type #x-type #rolls-royce #phantom #silver-spirit #silver-spur #d3 #alpina-d3